Most of us have a love-hate relationship with Thanksgiving. While we’re beyond thankful for Aunt Sarah’s plethora of pies and taters mashed to perfection, the need for a nap the minute after the last bite is just all too real. And according to a new study published in the journal eLife, there’s a legit scientific reason all of us seem to fall into a food coma on T-Day.
As it turns out, it has nothing to do with bird and everything to with the massive quantities of salt and protein-packed jammed into the entire meal. To come to this finding, scientists gave fruit flies meals rich in either salt, protein, or sugar. In addition to monitoring how much food they ate, they also kept an eye on their wakefulness. They noticed that the insects who consumed the meals rich in salt and protein fell asleep after they were done eating, while the bugs who consumed the sugary meals did not. In fact, those flies were especially energetic. (It seems a sugar high is a real thing!) Scientists attribute these findings to the protein’s leucokinin receptor neurons, which have been found to initiate post-meal drowsiness. While there are no other studies that examine the influence of salt on postprandial sleep, the researchers note that salt intake has been found to influence the sleep-wake cycle.
Although further research is needed to fully understand what causes humans and fruit flies alike to become tired after ingesting certain nutrients, however, these findings give hope that it’s possible to steer clear of a food coma by dialing back on protein and salt. Want to give it a go this year? Don’t miss our report, Every Classic Thanksgiving Dish — Ranked to find out which popular dishes are packed with the sleep-inducing nutrients.